As the mortuary manager at Eternal Valley Park Mortuary, Patti Palominos knows all too well that emotional hardships come with day to day operations. However, it’s the families in need that brings her to work every day.
“For me, it’s not dealing with death, I deal with a lot of life,” Palominos said. “It’s about focusing on the families.”
Palominos started working at the mortuary five years ago, after working at a preschool.
While teaching, she was at Eternal Valley on a visitation for her late great aunt. After a change in a family situation, she was in need for a year-round job.
That’s when she took on a part-time position as a receptionist, and her caring and patient nature as a preschool teacher carried on to the new position.
“I liked being around the families,” Palominos said. “Helping them when they came in and making them feel at home, helping them feel more comfortable.”
Her need for a more hands-on approach to helping the community pushed her through several part-time, and later-full time, positions at the park till eventually she was promoted to mortuary manager.
Palominos has lived in Santa Clarita her entire life. In fact, the preschool where she taught for 15 years was the same school she attended when she was young.
Watching the valley change, seeing businesses come and go and even having a familiarity with high school rivalries helped her relate to the families that come through the business.
“Something that is so special about working here is that it is my home town,” she said. “I have a unique connection here.”
Palominos raised three children in the valley. Many times, they had that awkward conversation when explaining to their friends that their mother worked at the local mortuary.
“I think they get a little kick out of it now,” she said. “But they actually take the opportunity to explain the jobs to their friends.”
Palominos admits that there can be misconception when it comes to working at Eternal Valley. She has been met with the stereotype that people in her profession are “creepy” or “pushy.”
When she first tells a new person about her career, she’s met with reactions such as ‘well someone has got to do it,’ or ‘it takes a really special person,’ or the usual, simple ‘oh’ and awkward glance off to the side.
But as soon as Palominos stepped into her position, she made sure that her mindset was positive, that she looked at her job as a helpful and much-need service.
“One thing that I share when people ask me why I wanted to be a funeral arranger is that having been on the other side of the table and experiencing loss of family members and friends,” she said. “I want to make sure that our families are treated like I would want my family to be treated.”
Occasionally, a headline will go in the paper about a community loss or tragedy. Palominos and her team make sure to know their story before they reach out to them.
“We help families with sons and daughters the same age as mine,” she said. “It is just about focusing on them and helping them through the process. It just makes you want to hold your kids and your family a little bit tighter at the end of the day.”
Palominos hopes that the community will look past the stereotypes that face morticians, funeral directors and cemeterians to find real people, willing to help.
“The people we work with are tender, empathetic people,” she said. “We joke around with one another, go to events. It is somber, it can be very depressing, but we all help one another through it. Like a family.”